Mark 16:16

If humanity is adopted into the Triune Life through Jesus then what are we to make of scriptures such as Mark 16:16? It reads:

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. ~ Mark 16:16, NIV

A good friend recently asked me about this verse. Here’s how I responded:

However we interpret scripture we can’t interpret it in a way that contradicts who Jesus is.

Jesus is the Word of God living in the flesh and sharing with us in our humanity (John 1:14). Therefore, he is the supreme revelation of who God is and who human beings are in relationship to God.

Romans 5:18 says that Adam brought sin to all people but Jesus has brought righteousness to all people. Colossians 1:20 says that Jesus has reconciled everyone to the Father.

Therefore, whatever Mark 16:16 means it cannot mean that we make ourselves righteous or reconcile ourselves to God by our own baptism or our own belief. Christ has made us righteous and Christ has reconciled us to the Father.

If Mark 16:16 means that we save ourselves by our own belief and our own baptism then why would we even need Jesus?

Either Jesus has saved us first and then we believe, or we save ourselves by our own belief and don’t need Jesus.

Obviously, Jesus has to be the savior. He is the one who has taken away the sins of the world (John 1:29) and made one new humanity in himself (Ephesians 2:15).

Because of Jesus the Father does not condemn anyone and does not hold anyone’s sins against them (Romans 5:9-10). Because of Jesus humanity has been adopted as the Father’s children (Ephesians 1:5).

So, if Jesus is the one who has saved and reconciled humanity then Mark 16:16 is a description to us of what happens when we believe this truth and what happens when we don’t believe it.

If we believe that humanity is reconciled and saved in Jesus then we will be baptized and we will begin to live as the children of the Father that we really are. On the other hand, if we don’t believe that Jesus is the savior of humanity then we will continue believing the lie that God is out to get us and we will continue feeling condemned.

Notice that Mark 16:16 does not say “believe and you will get saved” instead it says “believe and you will be saved.”

If someone said to a young man who was doing a bad job as a husband and father “you need to be a man” would that mean that he wasn’t male and needed to make himself into a male human being? Of course not. It would mean that he needs to act like what he already is – a man.

So, Mark 16:16 and other such verses aren’t telling us that we need to make ourselves into something that we’re not. They’re not saying “you aren’t saved but you can save yourself by your own belief and baptism.” Verses such as this are saying to us: “in Jesus, you are saved; so believe this truth about yourself, get baptized, and be the saved person that you really are. If you don’t believe that Jesus has saved you then you’re going to continue believing the lie that God condemns you.”

That’s the gospel, the good news for humanity. The good news is the message to all humanity that says:

Jesus has saved you, stop believing that God is out to get you and start believing the truth that your Father in heaven has adopted you as his child in Jesus and poured out his Holy Spirit on you.

~ Jonathan Stepp

4 comments so far

  1. Paul Kurts on

    Great point Jonathan. It is the same with a verse like Acts 2:38. We don’t get baptized in order to have our sins now forgiven, as though they were not before, we get baptized because our sins have already been forgiven. It is like a wanted poster saying, ” Jessie James wanted FOR murder.” This is NOT saying that someone is looking for Jessie James to be a ‘hit’ man for them. They are not looking for Jessie James so they can have someone killed. No, the poster is saying, because Jessie James has ALREADY killed or murdered someone he is now wanted because of that past action.

    It is the same with baptism. We are baptized for the remission of our sins which were remitted or forgiven in Jesus Christ a LONG time ago. So, we are baptized because they already have been forgiven and now we see who we are in Jesus and want to recognize our participation in the Life of the Triune God. A simple way of looking at the Gospel is this: It is either a done deal for all of humanity, or it is a “possibility” to become true for us by whatever we must “do” now to make it happen.

    blessings to all,

    Paul Kurts
    Madison, ALabama

  2. John Geerlings on

    Thanks Jonathan
    Well written!
    I had trouble with scripture like this when my mind was first changed to the inclusion of all humanity. Today it resonates in me as I see every person as embraced in the “being” of Jesus so that from His faith now in them, they may come to “know” to “be” in what is reality. John

  3. Pastor Jonathan on

    Thanks for the great feedback guys!

  4. gary on

    Can you really trust your English Bible to be God’s true Word?

    Have you ever had an evangelical or Reformed Christian say this to you:

    “THAT passage of the Bible, in the original Greek, does NOT mean what the simple, plain reading of the passage seems to say in English.”

    It happens to me all the time in my conversations with Baptists, evangelicals, and fundamentalists on my blog. They state: “Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins” was mistranslated. “This is my body…this is my blood” is a metaphorical expression, “Baptism does now save us” is figurative speech for what happens to us spiritually when we ask Christ into our hearts.

    What they are basically saying is that unless you speak ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek…you can’t read and really understand the Bible without the help of an educated Churchman!

    This morning I came across an excellent article on this subject, written by Jordan Cooper, a Lutheran pastor. I am going to give the link to his article below. I have copied a couple of his statements here:

    “So here is a question that we all need to ask ourselves when doing this (refusing to accept the simple, plain, English translation of a passage of Scripture): If a verse seems to disprove your theological beliefs, and you translate it in some way that doesn’t fit with any of the dozens of major English translations of the Bible, and that unique translation just happens to fit your own theological biases, could it be that it is in fact you who are in the wrong? Could you be reading your own preconceived theological convictions back into the text?”

    “I know it can be frustrating when you are constantly told that Scripture can’t be understood unless you learn (an ancient) language or read ancient documents that you don’t have either the time or the energy to study. Honestly, if you have a few good English translations at your side, and you take the time to compare them to one another, you have all the tools you need to understand the meaning of the Bible.”

    Link to Pastor Cooper’s original article:

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